On the one hand it's actually rather amazing that a writer whose last notable book came twenty years ago is still someone whose remarks a certain culture considers worth acting outraged over. On the other hand—actually, you know what? Let's not think too much about it.
Paul Newman’s egg-gorging feat in Cool Hand Luke certainly inspires wonder (along with a tinge of disgust). And yet each time I watch the film, I struggle with a nagging question raised by that stomach-swelling exploit: Which came first, our appetite, or our drive for competitive eating? Owing to the glut of cooking competitions, food trucks racing across town serving up sliders and duck-fat tots, foodies one-upping each other on Instagram and restaurants aggressively advertising their farm-to-table bona fides (as brilliantly satirized on "Portlandia"), food culture feels increasingly competitive in the broader, non-Kobayashi sense.
As the battles unfold to perform more impressive culinary feats, whether inhaling hot dogs [...]
"Conspicuous persons, in my motherland, are most seriously advised to lead a private life denuded of all color and complication. They should also, if they are prudent, have as little as possible to do with America—seen as the world HQ of arrogance and glitz. When I and my wife, who is a New Yorker, entrained the epic project of moving house, from Camden Town in London to Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, I took every public opportunity to make it clear that our reasons for doing so were exclusively personal and familial, and had nothing to do with any supposed dissatisfaction with England or the English people (whom, as I truthfully [...]
"It’s a deeply strange artifact: an A4-sized, full color glossy affair, abundantly illustrated with captioned photographs, screen shots, and lavish illustrations of exploding space ships and lunar landscapes. It boasts a perfunctory introduction by Steven Spielberg ('read this book and learn from young Martin’s horrific odyssey round the world’s arcades before you too become a video-junkie'), complete with full-page portrait of the Hollywood Boy Wonder leaning awkwardly against an arcade machine like some sort of geeky, high-waisted Fonz. We’re not even into the text proper, and already its cup runneth over with 100-proof WTF." —Mark O'Connell examines Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big [...]
Martin Amis, whose impending arrival in Brooklyn will change the face of Cobble Hill forever, wrote a long thing about his friend Christopher Hitchens in this past Sunday's Observer. Hitchens has a piece on Philip Larkin—godfather to Amis' brother—in the current Atlantic. Wheels within wheels.
"I only understood a little, but things were not going well." —Max Payne
The first weird thing that happened to me in South Korea was when I was doing a favorite thing: sitting in my boxers, eating pistachios. I was in front of my computer talking to a friend from home when someone knocked on my door. This was unusual. I’d only just moved to Korea to teach English and no one knew where I lived and no one had any reason to visit. Reasons for others to intrude into your life accumulate without your awareness all the time, and in strolled five police officers clad in black track [...]
When my friends started having children, as much as I thought about what role I'd play in their kids' lives, it was as the sort of friend of the family who, when you're teetering through teenagerdom and your early 20s, takes you out to lunch or dinner (often arriving, fortuitously, when you're most off course and down-at-heel), gives you Rilke and Asimov and the Brontes at the junctures when they can do their most good, takes your ambitions seriously, lets you be yourself while providing some calibrating sense of what the world at large will eventually expect from your conversation, etc. I had a couple such 'aunts' myself, my mom's [...]
"People talk about dumbing-down, but there’s a parallel process which is a numbing-down. When a poet is asking you to commune with him or her for this period of time—it gives people the creeps, now. That’s why people are always talking on their phones, or looking at their phones, it’s because they don’t want to be alone with their thoughts." —Even people who absolutely hate Martin Amis will find something with which to engage in this interview, probably because it's about 700,000 words long. (I like it a lot!)
Christopher Hitchens, along with Robert Hughes and Spy magazine's Michèle Bennett, first started me imagining that I would like someday to be a journalist and critic. These jaundiced observers of the follies of the late 1980s and early 1990s had in common an elegant style of attack, and a positive relish in the peppering, roasting, carving and dishing up of sacred cows. Hughes, by far the most scholarly of the three, went on to produce magnificent books and documentaries (and to survive the terrible injuries he sustained in a super-hairy car crash in 1999); Bennett's true identity has never been revealed, but I hope he or she is thriving, and [...]
Hey, you guys, anyone know where the hip stuff in Brooklyn goes down? You know, stuff with some edge, with that authentic Kings County feel to it. Like, I hear there's a flea market? And all the bars serve bacon cocktails? Something something pickling? Where's all that action at? Oh, no, it's not for me: It's Marty Amis wants to know.
"Of course ‘Lionel Asbo’ is overwritten – it’s by Martin Amis! The problem is that it’s under-overwritten. And there it is, the voice in a generation’s ear, charming without charm, insistently dazzling, milking the paradoxes until their teats are sore and they have no more nourishment to give. It’s easy to write Amislike sentences, hard to write good ones, and there are signs that Amis feels this too." —This is a pretty amazing consideration of middle-to-now period Martin Amis.